In collaboration with Roanoke Public Libraries builds, the Stamped from the Beginning book club built around Summer with the National Book Award event Indecent Histories, held on August 29th at the new Melrose Branch Library, featuring Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and Justin Phillip Read. Events were held in January and February 2020.
Historian Ibram X. Kendi was the youngest author to win the National Book Award for nonfiction for his book Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, (Bold Type Books, 2017). The book was a Washington Post and Boston Globe Best Book of the Year, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, and the NAACP Image Award Finalist for Outstanding Literary Work, Nonfiction. The history runs from fifteenth-century Europe into the twenty-first century in five sections, each with a “tour guide” of thought of their era. Kendi is a professor of history and international relations at American University.
Paired with Kendi for the event was Justin Phillip Reed. The poet and essayist is originally from South Carolina, and now lives in St. Louis. He won the award in 2018 for his poetry collection, Indecency (Coffee House Press, 2018).
- Read Stanley R. Hale’s coverage of the event in the Roanoke Tribune.
- Read the Roanoke Times editorial
- Read the BOOK CITY opinion piece in the Roanoke Times
- Find book recommendations mentioned in the August 29 event.
To continue the conversation, we held the Stamped from the Beginning Book Club, a six-week community read of the history of racist ideas. January 7 through February 14, 2020.
Download A Brief Timeline of Racism in the United States – notes from Stamped from the Beginning.
January 7 – Section 1: Cotton Mather
Guest: Points of Diversity’s Katie Zawacki on learnings from Changing the Narrative.
Thirty readers joined the conversation on January 7. We heard the outcomes from Katie Zawacki on the community’s 2019 Changing the Narrative project funded by the Kellogg foundation through Virginia Humanities. Watch soon for a video of Katie’s presentation. Additional resources mentioned in the meeting:
- Changing the Narrative Ritual of Prayer & Healing Invitation – Sunday 1/19, 3 PM
- Changing the Narrative identified priorities
- Points of Diversity website – stay tuned for an LGBTQ+ and a family dinner
- Additional reading: 1619 Project from The New York Times
- Additional viewing: Dr. Kendi on CBS News –Why are hate crimes rising? (Jan. 3)
- Agenda and Section One Timeline
- Katie Zawacki’s presentation (YouTube video)
January 14 – Section 2: Thomas Jefferson
Guest: Sculptor and Author Lawrence Reid Bechtel on Thomas Jefferson and Isaac Granger
A group of 25 people discussed the contradictions and complexity of Enlightenment thinkers including Thomas Jefferson. Guest Larry Bechtel described his interest and process in exploring the life of Isaac Granger Washington, an enslaved man on the estate of Thomas Jefferson, imagined in his novel, A Partial Sun. Additional resources mentioned in the session:
- Inhabiting other lives in historical fiction with Lawrence Reid Bechtel
- Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two American Stories, New York Times, 1.12.20)
- Africa’s Great Civilizations, PBS Documentary
- Larry Bechtel’s website
- A Partial Sun by Lawrence Reid Bechtel
- Section II Timeline
- Lawrence Reid Bechtel Presentation
January 21 – Section 3: William Lloyd Garrison (Add the FB Event to your calendar)
Guest: Virginia Tech’s Dennis Halpin on the legacy of the Civil War
Thirty readers discussed William Lloyd Garrison and the legacy of Abraham Lincoln. Then Dennis Halpin presented on reconstruction and the long-lasting effects of W.E.B. DuBois’ approach to history. Here are additional resources from the session.
- Dennis Halpin webpage
- Dennis Halpin presentation
- Our timeline for this section
- Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy (Southern Poverty Law Center)
- A Brotherhood of Liberty by Dennis Patrick Halpin – order directly from publisher Penn Press with this 20% discount code courtesy of our guest: PP20
- Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877 by Eric Foner
- A Nation Under Our Feet by Steven Hahn
- Gender & Jim Crow by Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore
- Richard Neave’s historical Jesus painting – BBC NEWS article
January 28 – Section 4: W. E. B. Du Bois (Add the Facebook Event to your calendar)
Guest: Virginia Humanities’ Justin Reid on Reconstruction and the Great Migration
Check out Virginia Humanities’ Justin Reid’s presentation.
Additional resources mentioned in the session:
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
- Virginia Festival of the Book
- The Road to Healing by Ken Woodley
- Something Must Be Done about Prince Edward County by Kristen Green
- “A Reading List for Ralph Northam” by Ibram X. Kendi (The Atlantic, Feb. 12, 2019)
- “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic, June 2014)
- Our timeline for this section
- Some in-depth and trusted news sources offered by the group: The Daily from The New York Times, AlJazeera, BBC News.
February 4 – Section 5: Angela Davis
Guest: Vice-Mayor Joe Cobb on the civil rights movement and today
Check out these related links:
- “Oscars ignore contemporary Black life” Peniel Joseph Commentary on CNN
- “Even the Dead Could Not Stay” Martha Park’s graphic essay on Gainsboro (CityLab, Jan. 2018)
- Download A Brief Timeline of Racism in the United States – notes from Stamped from the Beginning.
February 11 – We take a break so that the group can attend the listening session of the Virginia African American History Education Commission at the Harrison Museum of African American Culture at 6 PM.
February 18 – Wrap up conversation: What we can do, what each of us can do.
We listed things we can do to stand up to racism and to continue discussions in our community, listing resources and a number of ongoing and current efforts:
Check out these resources.
- An anti-racism bibliography
- Speak up – from Teaching Tolerance
- Church of the Brethren Peacebuilding Blog
Attend an upcoming event:
- Today, Saturday, 2/22: Central Church of the Brethren (416 Church Avenue) screens Emmanuel, 3 PM
- Sunday 2/23: “How Womanism is a tool for social justice,” Christ Episcopal, , 3 PM
- March 3 & 4: Voices of Faith will be showing Schindler’s List in two parts at the South County Library. 6:30-8:30. PM Both nights.
- March 6: Church Women United hosts the National Day of Prayer event with Straight Street. Central Church of the Brethren, 9:30 AM.
- March 8: The Central Church of the Brethren and the Center for Art, Humor & Soul: Can We Talk? 4-5:30 PM (416 Church Avenue).
- March 19: Points of Diversity fundraiser, A Taste of Diversity, Harrison Museum 5:30 – 8:30 PM
- National Antiracist Book Festival, April 25, 2020, Washington D.C.
- More Antiracist resources from the Antiracist Research and Policy Center.
The group discussed starter lists of:
What We Can Do
- Continue conversations and growing together
- Engage with ongoing efforts such as Voices of Faith, Points of Diversity, and Church of the Brethren.
- Learn and understand local history.
- Continue Points of Diversity Study Circles…not to have a mix of people, but for white people who want to do the work to learn more and be stronger allies together.
- Create a center point. An email group or coordinated calendar.
- Create a space for togetherness. Consider something not tied to the conversation, but bridging. Maybe a scrap exchange that bridges neighborhoods, resources, and people.
- Create a film evaluation group to rewatch classic and formative movies that shaped the way we think and act.
- Pursue parity in power structures:
- Elected, appointed, staff positions.
- Places of worship.
- Use an anti-racism lens on policy.
- Have more book groups like this.
- Use economic pressure and rewards.
- Keep meeting.
What I Can Do
- Assess individual decisions.
- Volunteer with active groups
- Subscribe, read and advertise:
- The Roanoke Tribune
- Colors VA Magazine
- Reassess the use of quadrants
- Stop use of boundary language in conversation
- I’ll talk with the postmaster
- Visit other churches once a month
- Attend Soul Sessions
- Use my dollar’s spending power
- Shop at black-owned businesses
- Shop at local markets
- Shop in other neighborhoods
- Question and stop using euphemisms, e.g. “Urban Renewal”
- What was it really?
- What did it actually do?
- Challenge assumptions and group think.
- Speak up. Take responsibility when racist comments are made.
- Show up. Join the Roanoke Branch of the NAACP.
- Attend Church Women United.
- Attend school events to bridge boundaries and show support for youth.
- Attend events at and support the Harrison Museum.
Watch for an announcement about an upcoming group reading of How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.